Performing on ships can satisfy your passion for music and your love of travel. You’ll work for the cruise line and perform with one of the house bands. Your band might rotate from the main theater to the lounges and bars to dining halls and small clubs all the way out to the pool deck. With each change of scenery, you’ll change your musical style.
You might accompany guest performers, dancers, or actors, or you might play a few solos for a rapt club audience. Be warned, though: there isn’t much time for practice, so brush up on your sight-reading and improv skills.
There are usually several areas of the ship you can work in. I spoke with several Cruise Ship Musicians, who told me the dining areas and bars are the best.
There, you’ll generally a play a mix of jazz standards and songs from The Great American Songbook, which leaves plenty of room for improvisation. In bigger areas or for special events, the set list will usually be crowd pleasers like “Brown Eyed Girl.” This’ll be fun — at first — but can get boring over enough months.
As a Cruise Ship Musician, you get the benefits of a stable employer. Some stay with the same line for decades! There’s also room for advancement with the cruise line, as you can expect regular pay raises or move up to the Musical Director position. If you’re just starting out, the average monthly salary for a Cruise Ship Musician is between $2,000 and $4,500.
Of course, while the pay is nice, many musicians turn to the cruise lines because they offer a way to travel the world. You’ll go all the same places as the cruise guests, with opportunities to go on shore and take part in the same activities. On a cruise line to Hawaii, you’ll be able to go snorkeling and diving before coming back to the line to play a jazz set.